During the nineteen fifties, when the future of the Kennet & Avon Canal seemed to be precarious at best, Lower Foxhangers Farm was a quietly prosperous small dairy farm milking thirty cows, relying entirely on family labour. But economic progress threatened the family. Three sons moved away to try their luck in Australia. One returned after a few years.
Canal recovery was accelerating, canal owners British Waterways were stealthily supportive, modest funds and canal volunteers were making an impact. Early farming experience was discouraging, but tourism and recreation were growing as family farming shrank, even in 1974. A large empty farmhouse was slowly converted to provide low expectation holidays; year by year facilities improved. Self-catering holidays and a small campsite were added.
Then in September 1985, canal narrowboats arrived at Foxhangers during a canal-busting boat rally by volunteer campaigners. Five more years and the Queen opened the canal high on Caen Hill locks. Already we were providing bank-side canal moorings for the accessible western waterway to Bath; now the sun was shining. Shelley and Russell saw the future and said, “You should be running hire boats, you know.”
We replied, “No, you should be running hire boats.”
One boat became two; two boats became four. Twenty years later there are eighteen boats and a thriving boatyard. An elderly grandfather, when not mowing the campsite and chatting to relaxed holiday visitors, enjoys his writing. Writing leads to self-publishing and book-promotion; happy days, sunny days.
Initially attracted by the name of the publisher which reminded me of the Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury from schooldays of long ago, I was soon captured by the clarity and simplicity of their description of the process, ‘I can do this, of course I can do this’.
During February, the text was sent to Grosvenor House Publishing with the preface and prologue as separate items and a list of characters was included within the text. An extract from the text relating John’s tender care for a new-born calf, inspired by a Countryfile story on spring lambing, was sent in mid-March as the back cover blog. Later, a Readers Response was included on the last page of White Clyffe with my email address for reply.
Becky at GHP had replied promptly with a number of suggestions; suggesting 5 x 8 inch black and white interior paperback with a full cover gloss finish cover and recommended using an indent for paragraphs and removal of the blank line between paragraphs that I had used. She also said she would not recommend Comic Sans as a font. I replied that I was not suggesting the main text in Comic Sans, only chapter and Title headings. I accepted it was a bit quirky, but I liked it and we don’t want to be anonymous, do we? She responded “Understood.”
Arrangements for book cover design were commenced during April. Brian Jones sent me a selection of ideas for mediaeval scenes and a variety of typefaces on 47 pages of A4. After a week of discussions, I made my choice, while asking for a look at a choice of typefaces and spacing. Murmuring gently, I mentioned that I had expressed a liking for Comic Sans to Becky. He responded gallantly, “Becky was quite right to be horrified. This is the Middle Ages, not the Beano and the Bash Street Kids”.
Completion of the cover design is the point of no return, when print files are ordered, triggering a process that will lead to a request from the publisher to distribute printed books. The entire experience has been a stimulating journey, though likely to pale as I become engrossed in promotion and publicity. For any writer thinking of self-publishing, DIY promotion is likely to be the most formidable challenge.